Arab Response to Dr. Johnson's Refugee Plan
On October 15, Dr. Johnson received Arab responses to his plan for settlement of the refugee problem. UAR Foreign Minister Fawzi acting independently of the other Arab delegations, posed certain questions about implementation (what are Israel's true intentions with respect to repatriation? what would be the physical situation of refugees returning to Israel?), but said UAR representatives in New York have full authorization to continue discussion with Johnson on all aspects of his plan. Later the same day, Johnson was handed a joint Lebanese-Syrian-Jordanian Note (text enclosed)/2/ which puts up a strong objection to the plan's lack of assurance that Israel will permit return of refugees choosing repatriation. An Arab representative (Rifai of Jordan) subsequently confirmed that the Note should not be construed as rejection, but that further discussion of other plan features is precluded until there has been clarification on this point of Arab concern.
The Arabs' response puts them superficially in parallel with the Israelis. Each side now demands a prior assurance it knows the other cannot give. The Arabs ask that Israel agree in principle that all refugees who opt for repatriation will be permitted to go back, and they express concern regarding treatment of those who return. The Israelis, inter alia, call for Arab recognition that repatriation will be possible, at most, for no more than one refugee in ten.
This seeming equivalence aside, the positions appear to differ in that Israel's line is somewhat harder. The Arabs have let it be known that there is a good measure of protective coloration in their objections, and they have stressed that they are not rejecting the plan. Israel, on the other hand, tells us privately (we suspect to strengthen its hand in bargaining) that it has rejected the plan. Israel is careful, however, to avoid doing so in public and is in fact working to unload the public onus on the Arabs. In addition, Israel representatives voice a variety of other objections to the plan, some being reasonable concerns which can conceivably be dealt with through continued discussion if there is a basic will to progress, and some being reiterations of old arguments, thoroughly gone into by Dr. Johnson, that would effectively preclude any useful movement on the problem.
Over the next few weeks, we look to further discussion with both sides (1) to keep the plan in play; (2) hopefully, to overcome reasonable apprehensions; and (3) to counter, as appropriate, Israel's lobbying against the plan in Congress, in the U.N., and in the American Jewish community.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 325.84/10-2062. Confidential; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Crawford on October 18 and cleared by Sisco, Strong, and Talbot.
/2/Attached but not printed.
/3/Lloyd signed for Brubeck above Brubeck's typed signature.